Sunday, November 21, 2010

Breaking in Line

George Will writes an excellent column about the current dust up over airport security line procedures.  As far as he's concerned, the entire TSA process is "mostly security theater, a pageant to reassure passengers that flying is safe."  With this column, he admirably takes up where Charles Krauthammer left off just a day ago.

But Will uses the occasion as well to invoke the memory and thought of William F. Buckley, Jr.  (Almost always a wise gambit.)  He reminds his readers of a story Buckley once told of riding a commuter train from New York to his home in Connecticut.  As it was winter, the car heater was on, but either the temperature gauge was set too high or the unit was malfunctioning because the car was unbearably hot.  What Buckley noticed was that in spite of the conditions, no one took it up with the conductor, even though at one point he walked through the car, directly in front of all the passengers.  For Buckley this said something disquieting about America itself, about what it had become.
It isn't just the commuters, whom we have come to visualize as a supine breed who have got onto the trick of suspending their sensory faculties twice a day while they submit to the creeping dissolution of the railroad industry. It isn't just they who have given up trying to rectify irrational vexations. It is the American people everywhere.
I think something very like this happened on 9/11.  We, as a society, have been conditioned for several generations now, to suffer quietly all manner of discomfort, indignity, and injustice, to simply take it, to swallow it, to sit and to wait for the proper authorities to arrive and handle it.  "In a more virile age", as Buckley had it, confronted on even an airplane by a couple of punks armed with nothing more than box-cutters, one, two, maybe ten men would have scoffed, stood directly up, and returned the challenge with a robust, "the hell you are!"

This is not to mock the poor souls who lost their lives that terrible day, and certainly not those of Flight 93 who, once they understood what was happening, did stand up and take matters into their own hands.  On the contrary, one likes to think that on that day something changed for the average American.  For the first time in a long time, he stood erect.  He began to peel away the layers upon layers of schooling, training, and outright propaganda that always drilled the exact same lesson:  Wait.  The authorities will take care of it.  You are not responsible.  You are not competent to this task.  Your passion will mislead you to pursue vengeance instead of justice.  Wait.

Is "Don't touch my junk!" another way of saying "I'm tired of waiting.  So why the hell is this line moving so slowly?"   

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